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With 22,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, UNHCR speeding up aid delivery

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With 22,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, UNHCR speeding up aid delivery

4 January 2011

Saclepea, Tuesday, 04 January 2011

UNHCR is stepping up its aid delivery to the now 22,000 Ivorian refugees who fled to Liberia in the wake of post-electoral tensions in their country. The mostly women and children are from western Cote d'Ivoire and are in urgent need of food, shelter and clean water- all of which are in short supply in the 23 villages hosting them in Nimba County, Liberia, where they continue to arrive.

UNHCR mobilized seven trucks this week from the capital Monrovia to our operations base in the eastern town of Saclepea, Nimba County. Five of the trucks will serve to carry the food and non-food supplies, while the other two will be devoted to transporting material for the construction of a campsite.

We have also signed an agreement with the Norwegian Refugee Council to simultaneously distribute the food and non-food relief items in all refugee receiving villages. In addition, we have recently erected a rubhall in Luguato to stock relief items, including food.

This morning the World Food Program confirmed to UNHCR that it would immediately make food available for close to 21,000 Ivorian refugees. Earlier, WFP supplied high energy biscuits which we started distributing on New Year's Day to children under five years of age, lactating mothers, pregnant women and ill people. While they await the general food distribution, refugees are helping their host communities harvest crops in exchange for a portion of the rice, cassava and other staples collected.

Until now, we have been focusing on delivering aid to the area of Luguato, the largest refugee hosting area where the influx first began. We have so far registered some 11,500 refugees there, slightly over half of the total Ivorian refugee population. The refugees in and around Luguato originate from villages of Danane department, western Cote d'Ivoire.

The other Ivorian refugees are hosted in Butuo and Dubuzon and fled from the Guiglo department, also in the western Cote d'Ivoire, south of Danane.

Refugees, who are a mixed group of supporters of Alassane Outtara and Laurent Gbago, come from villages between Danane and Guiglo. They say they fled at night and walked through the bushes to avoid detection by forces of opposing political views, who are in control of the territories they come from. As a result their journey is taking several hours longer than normal.

Ivorian refugees fleeing the current crisis began to enter Liberia on 29 November. They are continuing to arrive and registration is ongoing. With additional staff deployed to the border areas, we are hoping to speed up registration, which opens the right to assistance and protection for the refugees.